Carried Away Spring 2015 - Page 30

“It slowly dawned on babywearers that they could create a custom wrap, in their favourite colours, and custom handwovens became more interesting and more sought after...” Handwovens The history, the science, the art. Self confessed fibre geek, weaving enthusiast and handmade tragic Cat Timms talks us through everything you need to know about the crème de la crème of woven wraps, handwovens. The word “handwoven” in babywearing has become synonymous with bespoke, handcrafted, custom baby wraps. There are a couple of different types of handwovens though; for example, Girasol, Inda Jani and Bebe Sachi, well known commercial brands with a much higher number of wraps per run, are handwoven as well. However, we’re going to focus on the bespoke, boutique, limited-run handwovens, most often handwoven by single weavers (usually WAHMs). The History Weaving is obviously an ancient science and art. All cloth was handwoven before machines were invented in the industrial age (1700s) to produce cloth at a much faster rate for much cheaper. However handweaving never went away and even as late as the 1940’s handwoven fabric was still being used, mostly in bespoke gowns and suits for wealthy people. It faded quickly after World War 2 and the age of polyester. I have no doubt that modern mothers wore babies in handwoven wraps before Uppymama started to do so, however Uppy needs to be credited with bringing handwovens to the forefront, slowly, of the boutique babywearing world. It was Becky, doula, and Nancy, 30 weaver, who together created some handwovens for teaching wrapping. By 2012, people were interested, but it wasn’t a big thing and Uppies were offered in trade for machine woven Oschas who were in their hey day. It slowly dawned on babywearers that they could create a custom wrap, in their favourite colours, and custom handwovens became more interesting and more sought after, plus the wrapping qualities (and the fact that they needed almost no breaking in, the type that Uppy were producing at the time in cotton, compared to machine wovens which did). 2013 saw an explosion in weavers and the creation of Loom to Wrap, the main international handwovens group, to keep track of weavers, review them, provide a place to geek out, and buy and sell. The handwoven baby wraps world went from a handful of baby wrap weavers to 50 in a matter of months. It wasn’t without speedbumps as people thought weaving a baby wrap was simple and just did it without learning how to weave properly first. Briefly there was a small flood of poorly woven and even unsafe baby wraps on the market as the handwoven community learnt what good weaving, and more importantly, good weaving for babywearing, looks like. carried away | Spring 2015 | Handwovens Fast forward to 2015 and there are over 200 and growing every day as many babywearers are inspired to learn the craft. Just two short years ago it was almost impossible to “get a custom” (have the opportunity to work with a weaver to design your own wrap) but now it’s relatively easy with so many weavers. The Science Recently I read a brilliant explanation of weaving by Barbara Peterson of Aries Weavers. I could not improve upon it so I quote her here with permission: “Weaving is a method of creating fabric by interlacing two sets of yarn threads at right angles. The lengthwise threads are called the warp and the second set of threads crossing them are called the weft. The warp threads form the based for weaving; they are arranged parallel to one another and are in tension on a loom. The weft is a single thread that is passed over and under the warp thread in a systematic way to create a piece of cloth. Weavers working on large pieces use a treadle loom, a large machine that holds long warp threads and can make quick and complicated changes in the placement of these threads to allow for many patterns. Weaving fabric on a loom involves several steps. First, the warp must be threaded on to the loom and held under tension; this forms a surface of closely spaced, parallel threads. To begin the process that produce the fabric, a shed must be opened; that is a space so that some warp threads are up and some are down (depending on the draft). Next, a tool called shuttle pulls the weft thread through the shed. Then the beater forces the weft against the previously placed threads to form the fabric. Finally, the raised warp threads are lowered, and a new set is raised in preparation for a new cycle. This locks the weft into place, above certain warp threads and below others. At the back of a loom is the warp beam around which the warp threads are wrapped and kept under tension. Periodically, the warp beam is rotated to feed more warp thread as finished fabric is created. Between the beam at the back and the fabric in the front, each warp threads passes through a small eye set in middle of a vertical wire called a heddle. Groups of heddles are connected to a wood or metal frame called a harness so that the group of heddles, together with the warp threads passing through the heddle eyes, can be raise of lowered in a single operation.” It’s hard to understand without seeing it; this is a helpful video explaining basic weaving. Continued page 32 31 Handwoven